February 25, 2012

Great Social Life Or Great Education?

I am reading this interesting book about educational interpreters and came across this statement made by a college student:
For many mainstreamed students, social life is a disadvantage while education is a big plus. You have to sacrifice one thing for another. (Winston, 2004).
In this case, this seems to be referring to mainly deaf or hard of hearing students who utilize interpreters or prefer communicating via sign language. 

Do you think this is true for most mainstreamed signing deaf and hard of hearing students? Or does it depend on the situation, the school, and the student?

Knowing what you know now, which would you sacrifice? Opportunities for a great social life or a great education?



Winston, Elizabeth A. 2004. Educational Interpreting: How It Can Succeed. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.


  1. I chose to go to a university that was entirely hearing instead of RIT or Gallaudet for my education, and I am very happy that I went there. The current economy aside, a college degree is a very important piece of paper in this society, and some may want to pursue specific fields or even go to a school that is prestigious. I do feel like I have missed out on social and network opportunities at Gallaudet or RIT, but where I am now (a major city), I feel like I am making up for it. I also knew numerous deaf people in my hometown, so going to my university was a way to challenge myself to better interact with hearing people, without a so-called security blanket.

    In my experience, college is a better environment than high school. My high school was large and loud and cramped and had its share of cliques. My university, while large, was not so loud and cramped (not being in one building but spread out among several), and I found college to be a humbling experience for many students. With everyone taking different places and being all over the campus, it was a pleasure to see a familiar face.

    In summary, it does not have to be an either/or proposition. College is 4-5 years for most people, but it can help empower you to decide where you want to be for a larger portion of your life, especially with other deaf people. Some people will follow the work-to-live philosophy, but it's hard to do that if you accept the only job offer in a small town with very few deaf or even young professionals.

  2. I was mainstreamed in K-12 and suffered socially even though I had a great academic education. I never learned to sign but survived by speechreading. I can also speak clearly, which didn't matter too much anyway because I couldn't hear! I also never wore hearing aids because my parents believed in downplaying, and basically ignoring, that I was deaf entirely so that I could be fully mainstreamed. The resulting social isolation I suffered in K-12 was pretty traumatic, though the college years provided some relief. It really is nearly impossible to develop friendships -- even basic acquaintances -- when you cannot communicate clearly with others. Relying entirely on speechreading means missing much of the conversation. It also means having extreme difficult communicating in groups because I could never turn fast enough to face the next person who begins speaking. I never knew other deaf or HOH kids when I was growing up. I was entirely immersed in a hearing environment, which was very difficult. But that might reflect the times I grew up in, the 1970s, when mainstreaming was much more popular than it is now.

    Mainstreaming might be okay for a few years, especially for the later years in high school or college. But for those first foundational years in school, I think it's important to develop socialization and communication skills as well. For many deaf and HOH kids that means being in an environment where signing and technical assistance are not just available but are encouraged and supported.


Keep it civil.